A unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah would spell the end of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said Wednesday in the wake of a report that the two factions had reached a reconciliation deal.
“[PA President] Mahmoud Abbas must decide if he wants to make peace, and if he does, with whom,” Liberman said in a statement. “It’s impossible to make peace with both Israel and Hamas, a terror organization that calls for the destruction of Israel. The signing of an agreement for a unity government between Fatah and Hamas is a signature on the end of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
An agreement between members of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas that would see a new government formed within the next five weeks was reached following talks in Gaza City that began on Tuesday evening, a member of the PLO who wished to remain anonymous told AFP, adding that the parties had also made progress in discussions on holding elections.
A press conference was expected to be called in Gaza Wednesday afternoon to address the reports.
Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Abbas’s Fatah, the ruling party of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, have been at odds since 2007, when Hamas took over Gaza in a violent confrontation.
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been engaged in peace negotiations since July 2013, but the the parties have made little progress, and the talks have been in danger of falling apart completely since Israel refused to go through with the final phase of a four-stage prisoner release that it had agreed to before talks.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett called the reported alliance “a unity government of terror,” adding that “Hamas will continue to murder Jews and Abbas will continue to to demand the release of prisoners.
“Whoever thought that Abbas is a partner [for peace] should reconsider his stance,” he added.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made comments similar to Liberman’s earlier in the day, although he did not state outright that a Fatah-Hamas deal would end the peace talks.
“Instead of moving into peace with Israel, he’s moving into peace with Hamas,” Netanyahu said of Abbas. “He has to choose: Does he want peace with Hamas or peace with Israel? You can have one but not the other. I hope he chooses peace; so far he hasn’t done so.”
Abbas told a group of Israeli journalists Tuesday that the Palestinians would agree to extend negotiations with Israel by nine months on the condition that Israel agreed to immediately commence discussing the borders of the future Palestinian state, and froze settlement construction, including in East Jerusalem.
Raphael Ahren and AFP contributed to this report.